A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a heart condition that appears in utero or at birth when the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart fails to form fully. As a result, there could be a single hole or more than one hole in the septum (or wall). This causes abnormal blood flow through the heart, potentially leading to pulmonary overcirculation (too much blood flow to the lungs arteries).
There are two sides to the heart, separated by an inner wall known as the septum. A VSD can occur in the wall between the ventricles (or lower chambers of the heart). For many children born with VSD, the opening eventually closes in the first few years of life. Its ability to close depends on VSD location within the wall and the size of the VSD.
Symptoms may or may not be obvious. A heart murmur may be the only sign. While your child’s doctor may hear the murmur at birth, it may not be possible to hear until your baby is 6 to 8 weeks old. Babies with larger VSDs are more likely to show symptoms at birth than those with atrial septal defects (ASDs). Those who have medium or large VSDs can develop pulmonary overcirculation (too much blood flow to the lung arteries) and congestive heart disease.
If the VSD is large enough and there is pulmonary overcirculation, symptoms usually appear in the first two months of life and may include:
Depending on size and location of the opening, symptoms indicating a VSD may not be noticeable until months to years later. A VSD may not apparent until adulthood in rare cases.
A heart murmur, which is associated with a ventricular septal defect, is detected by listening to the chest through a stethoscope. Your child’s doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds or a murmur that indicates blood is not flowing smoothly through the heart. Additional exams and tests may be performed to see the size of the opening, determine whether there is more than one abnormal hole and learn how the VSD affects the heart and lungs. These tests include:
While some ventricular septal defects close over time, others require treatment. The most common treatments are:
Visit the websites below to find support groups, services and learn more about ventricular septal defects.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This not-for-profit organization supports adults living with congenital heart disease and works with health professionals to distribute helpful information to patients, parents and caregivers.
Parents and caregivers can find basic information about ventricular septal defects at this U.S. government website, published by the nation’s leading agency for the protection of public health.
Clinical research is vital to understanding possible new treatments and new tests to help with diagnosis. Our pediatric cardiologists participate in many research studies, both at a local and national level including grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Program Project, a major institution studying the cause and treatment of heart conditions. Your child's cardiologist may ask you about your interest in participating in these studies.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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